Golf in New Zealand: Kauri Cliffs

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One of the most remarkable things my wife has ever said to me is that, if I ever told her I thought we ought to live in New Zealand, she’d be ready to move that minute. This was highly surprising, both because she doesn’t really even like to travel and because Donald Trump wasn’t running for President yet. I think her interest was based partly on the scenery in The Lord of the Rings movies and partly on the fact that New Zealand is so far from everywhere else that if you holed up there you would no longer have to think quite so much about the world’s most serious problems. I myself might be tempted to move, if I could persuade all my regular golf buddies to go, too.

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I visited New Zealand in 2007, in the company of the hedge-fund billionaire Julian Robertson and his wife, Josie—who has since died.

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We spent the first few days at Kauri Cliffs, a resort the they had created on a 6,000-acre farm in the Bay of Islands region, near the northern end of the North Island. “I had no idea what I’d bought,” he told me. “It turned out to be one of the most magical pieces of land you will ever see, but when I bought it I didn’t even know that it had waterfalls. I saw it at the worst time of the year, August, and it was nothing but a filthy wet sheep farm, and I really bought it mainly because it was cheaper than a modest New York City apartment.”

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In 1997, he hired David Harman, a golf architect he admired, to design a course for the eastern edge of the property, along cliffs that rise high above the Pacific. That course is now No. 49 on Golf Digest’s list of the World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. It’s just ahead of North Berwick Golf Club, in Scotland—one of my favorite golf courses of all time. Kauri Cliffs is a terrific course, too, and the views from the ocean holes are spectacular.

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Josie didn’t see the place until the course was almost finished, and when she did she said they would have to build a lodge, too, in order to attract enough golfers to keep the course in operation. “I said, That’s ridiculous, this is a great golf course and they will come,” Julian told me. “Well, Josie was right; they wouldn’t have come. Kauri Cliffs is about as far away from everywhere else as you can get, so it was a real stroke of genius of hers that we did it. And, as it turns out, the lodge business down here has been very, very good.”

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The accommodations at Kauri Cliffs consist of eleven two-bedroom cottages arranged along a secluded walking path, plus the Owner’s Cottage, which is larger, has its own garden and infinity-edge swimming pool, and can be rented (for more than $6,000 a night in the high season) when the Robertsons aren’t in residence. Each suite-size half-cottage has a porch, fireplace, dressing room, and spa-like bathroom, and it looks out over the golf course to the sea. This was the view from my room:

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When the resort was being designed, Josie had a big fight with the architect over air-conditioning: the architect argued that no self-respecting five-star hotel could possibly do without it, and Josie argued that it most definitely could. The winner, naturally, was Josie—and she was right. The outdoor daytime temperature at Kauri Cliffs hovers around room temperature virtually all year long, and one of the great pleasures of staying there is waking up to birds and ocean breezes rather than the cold hum of an HVAC system.

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To be continued.

Reader’s Trip Report: Tarandowah Golfers Club

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When my friends and I look for places to play during the winter, we usually go south—to Bridgeport, Brooklyn, or the Bronx—but maybe we should go north instead. John Wilson, a reader in Canada, wrote recently to say he had just played a round at Tarandowah Golfers Club, in Springfield, Ontario, a few miles north of the northern shore of Lake Erie, about halfway between Buffalo and Detroit. Pictures of the course made me want to jump in my car.

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Tarandowah was designed by Martin Hawtree, who has done big projects at Lahinch, Portmarnock, Formby, Royal Liverpool, and Royal Birkdale — all among my favorite courses in the world. He also designed Trump International in Aberdeen, Scotland, and has done a major renovation and redesign at Trump International in Doonbeg, Ireland. His firm, Hawtree Ltd., was founded more than a century ago by his grandfather Fred; it’s the oldest continuously operating golf-architecture firm in the world. (All three generations of Hawtrees have worked on Royal Birkdale.) Tarandowah is very much in the spirit of all those great old links courses. Here’s a photo Wilson took during his recent round:

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And here’s another:

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His report:

“I work on the greens crew at St. Thomas Golf & Country Club, in Union, about half an hour away. It closes every year after the third weekend in November, so it has been shut down for a while. Tarandowah is one of several public courses in this area that stay open as long as the weather permits. I played with a St. Thomas member I see every day when I am working but rarely get to make a game with. We played in three hours (walking) at a cost of $25 per person — not bad for a Hawtree design.”

St. Thomas, which was founded in 1899, has a heck of a course, too. Here’s the third hole, on which nearly every shot has a decent chance of ending up in that creek:

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During the past three winters, St. Thomas has undertaken a major tree-thinning project — something many old golf courses need to do. “Joe Vargas, from Michigan State University, and David Oatis, from the U.S.G.A., were the primary consultants on the project,” Wilson told me, “and my superintendent, Wade Beaudoin, wrote an article about it.” (You can read Beaudoin’s article here.) So far, more than a thousand trees have come down. Here are some of them:

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During a round at Tarandowah a little over a year ago, Wilson noticed that a sorry-looking dog was following his foursome. “I assumed she was a stray, because she was covered in burrs and thick mud,” he told me. “My friends thought I was crazy to rescue a dog during a round of golf, but I took her home and cleaned her up. Later, I learned that she belonged to a farm near the golf course. I shed a few tears when I dropped her off with her rightful owners. During my round last week, she came running across the fields, and my smile was a mile wide. Her name is Gracey.”

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“The forecast for next week calls for temperatures in the mid-forties,” he continued, “so there’s still more time for December golf in Ontario. On Tuesday, though, I’m heading to L.A. for a family visit. I already have a tee time for Rancho Park, which I haven’t played yet. Hopefully, the round will be less than five hours.”

Well, good luck with that one. Maybe less than six.

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All the Way Inside the Ropes With Annika, Chi-Chi, and the Black Knight

Gary Player Invitational - Pro-AmA couple of weeks ago, three friends attended the Gary Player Invitational, a two-day charity event, at GlenArbor Golf Club, in Bedford Hills, New York. The course was designed by Player, and it’s awesome:

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The field for the event was awesome, too:

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It included Player, Chi-Chi Rodriguez, Annika Sorenstam, Tom Lehman, Retief Goosen, Natalie Gulbis, Ian Woosnam, Jason Dufner, Mark O’Meara, many others.

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Bob G.—an honorary member of the Sunday Morning Group, who also happens to be a member of GlenArbor—sent me these notes:

Way better than any golf tournament. No ropes, could walk anywhere. Players were relaxed and easy to engage. Although there was some press around, they weren’t in the way. It wasn’t like a big media event, so there was no pressure on the pros to be ‘on.’ Just us and these great golfers hanging out. A bit like having Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera over to play a little baseball in your backyard.

Chi-Chi, who is 79, looks 65. On the fairway of No. 16, he comes up and says, ‘Hi, I’m Chi-Chi. Things are so bad in Puerto Rico that the Mafia had to lay off three judges.’

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Annika Sorenstam hits a nice draw with about a 250-yard carry. Ian Woosnam looked grumpy. Mark O’Meara told Grant Gregory, who founded the club, that the greens were faster and better than the ones at Augusta during the Masters.

Lehman drinks beer; Goosen drinks wine. I had a drink with Rich Beem. Nice guy, but called me ‘Sir.’

Hacker (real name) was there, too. He followed Player and Sorenstam for several holes, and walked right along with them in the fairway. There were only about 40 people in the entire tournament gallery, so he was able to get plenty close:

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Peter A. was also there. “It was better than the last U.S. Open I attended, at Torrey Pines,” he told me. “And all the LPGA players are smokin’ hot.”

I couldn’t join them, because my daughter and her family were visiting, and I was busy teaching my granddaughter, who is about to turn two, how to eat goldfish crackers the way the guys in the Sunday Morning Group eat potato chips:

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The Ideal City for Golf?

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If you’re thinking about moving to maximize your year-round access to golf, you could do worse than to study a map of the nation’s air bases. The reason isn’t that pilots play more golf than other people; the reason is that the Air Force tends to locate its facilities in places that are relatively free of the kinds of weather that keep flyers on the ground—which happen to be the kinds of weather that keep golfers indoors. By that metric, the most golf-friendly micro-climate in the United States may be in and around San Antonio, Texas, where thousands of new airmen and airwomen are trained each year. At least, that’s the theory of Scott Anderson, a fortyish information-technology consultant, whose wife is a major in the Air Force Reserve. She spent five months in Afghanistan, and, during her deployment, their Skype conversations were sometimes broken off by explosions. “I hate this role reversal,” he told me. “She’d be under attack somewhere, and I’d be home, hand-washing the dog bed.”

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That’s Anderson in the middle in the photo above. He told me that he took up golf because he figured it would be a good way to meet people, especially while following his wife through her military career. I met him and two of his friends—Dustin New, on the left, and Evan Zickgraf, on the right—on the first tee at Brackenridge Park Golf Course, a few minutes from downtown San Antonio and roughly midway between Lackland and Randolph Air Force bases.

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Old Brack—as regulars refer to it—opened in 1916 and was the first municipal course in Texas. It was designed by A. W. Tillinghast and built partly with convict labor, and for many years it was the home of the Texas Open. The clubhouse was built in 1923, after the original clubhouse burned down; it does extra duty as the Texas Golf Hall of Fame & Museum.P1110062On the thirteenth hole, Anderson, New, Zickgraf, and I were joined by Stephen Escobedo, an assistant pro, whom I’d met the day before.

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His father, Marshall, caddied on what’s now the Champions Tour, and when Stephen was three or four Marshall took a photograph of him on the Old Brack practice green, pretending to smoke a corncob pipe. Stephen played baseball in college. He took up golf in a serious way during a five-year stint in the Marine Corps, and he liked the game so much that he decided to build his post-military existence around it. Today, in addition to giving lessons and working in the golf shop, he coaches the golf team at a local middle school.

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Stephen and Marshall are both members of the Pan-American Golf Association, a predominantly Latino group that was founded in San Antonio in 1947 and now has 44 chapters in nine states. The organization’s national archives and hall of fame are next door to the golf course, in a building that also serves as both a clubhouse and a public bar.

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Marshall and a large group of his golf buddies were there having a post-round beer when I stopped by, late on Saturday afternoon. They play most of their rounds at Old Brack, although they occasionally take field trips. “There’s a course they sometimes play that’s 30 miles away from here,” Stephen told me. “But even when they travel they always come back to their own clubhouse to do the scorecards.”

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How To Play Golf With a Broken Neck

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My column in the August issue of Golf Digest is about my friend Thomas Tami, an ear-nose-and-throat doctor in Cincinnati, who broke his neck when he was in college, forty years ago, and took up golf a decade later even though he can’t turn his head without turning his torso.”When I take the club back,” he told me, “I completely lose the ball, and I never pick it up on the way down.” He’s a player, though. His best score for 18 holes is 76 at his home course, Hyde Park Golf & Country Club, which was designed mostly by Donald Ross. Here’s a video of Tami hitting a shot at Hyde Park two years ago:
Try that yourself sometime (on the range) if you think it looks easy.
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Golf in Morocco: The King and Billy Casper

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The Hassan II Trophy, held last week in Morocco, was named for the man who ruled that country from 1961 until his death, in 1999—as I wrote in my previous post. Shortly after Hassan died, a journalist described his legacy as “economic backwardness, rising demographic pressures, widespread corruption, vast and open disparities of income, urban overpopulation, rural decay, illiteracy, inadequate public services, underutilization of resources and environmental destruction.”  But he loved golf! To help him learn the game and keep him company while he played, he imported a number of American pros, among them Claude Harmon (who was his teacher), Butch Harmon (who served as the head pro at Dar es Salaam Golf Club, in Rabat), and Billy Casper (who came to like the King and the country so much that he described himself to me as “half-Moroccan.”) That’s Casper on the left in the photo below, and King Hassan in the middle:

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During my first trip to Morocco, in 2000, I got to visit the royal stables, in Bouznika, with two other journalists—something tourists ordinarily aren’t allowed to do. Bouznika is linked to Rabat by one of the best highways in Morocco, a four-lane expressway that could almost pass for an American Interstate, but our driver was unable to find it, so we traveled instead on back roads, stopping every few miles to ask unlikely people for directions.
The landscape along our route appeared to have been constructed from rubble with a thin layer of litter spread unevenly on top. We saw children tending small flocks of ill-looking sheep on the shoulders of the road; greasy shops that appeared to specialize in the sale of bald tires; old men defecating in the middle of otherwise infertile-looking farm plots; and abandoned buildings that were distinguishable from their occupied neighbors mainly by their lack of satellite-television antennas.
At one point, our driver asked for directions from a grimy man and two small grimy boys, who were cooking sardine-size fish in the ashes of a smoky fire within a few feet of the roadway. The boys would languidly throw a couple of fish into the fire, then languidly pull them out and pop them, whole, into their mouths. They didn’t seem to know where we were going, either—but eventually we found the stables and were able to admire king’s extensive collection of Arabian horses, which live in stalls furnished almost like hotel rooms and are closely attended by workers whose main job is to clean up after them as they amble over carpet-like turf. We also got a distant look at one of the King’s private golf courses. It was part of the same complex, and at that moment (as at virtually all moments) it was being played by no one. That’s me in the photo below; the golf course is in the background:

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Casper was the architect. He said the King had asked him to design a course for the site, and that he made drawings and sent them to the palace but ever heard anything back. “Then someone told me the course had been built—and from my drawings,” Casper said. It turned out that the King’s construction crew had simply superimposed Casper’s layout on the existing fields, and had done none of the indicated contouring. As a result, the fairways all run as the fields used to run, and the greens are all flat (and huge). Casper told me he had never played it—something he could have done only at the invitation of the King. Another journalist explained: “Morocco is a real kingdom, not a constitutional monarchy, and the King thinks like a king.” In other words, inviting the architect to give his own course a try is something that wouldn’t occur to him. We did get to sit on the roof of the King’s personal clubhouse, though—and that’s where I am in the photo above.

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Two Ryder Cup Shots You Didn’t See on TV

You didn’t see them because they happened in a different Ryder Cup, the one the Sunday Morning Group held while the American tour stars were getting whupped in Scotland.

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Twenty-four guys signed up in advance, and Corey, our terrific pro, divided us into two teams, one red and one blue. The youngest guy in the field didn’t show, apparently because he had met someone interesting in a bar the night before. Corey took his place, after persuading his mother, our club’s immediate past president, to watch the golf shop for him. (The guy who didn’t show made a big mistake, in my opinion. The time to establish golf in a romantic relationship is at the beginning, before the non-playing party has had time to develop a case.)
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And after everyone had finished we had our usual lunch of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and beer, on the patio near the practice green:
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Before I get to the two shots that weren’t shown on TV, I’d like to make two general observations about the other Ryder Cup:
1. What is the source of Ryder Cup Europe’s pathological golf-course selections? In the sixties and seventies, the trans-Atlantic side of the contest was held exclusively on Open courses: Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Royal Birkdale, and Muirfield—an over-reliance on England, granted, but otherwise impeccable. Since then, the thinking has apparently been that crummy venues deserve international exposure, too. The worst is the Belfry, also in England, which has hosted the matches four times—more than any other course in history. The Belfry has just two good holes, the ninth and the eighteenth, and most matches don’t reach the eighteenth. This year’s course, at Gleneagles, was in the works when I first played golf in Scotland, in the early 1990s. At that time, the Scots had seemingly decided that the way to attract American golfers to Scotland was to hire Jack Nicklaus to build something that would remind them of Florida, cart paths included. Somebody, please, wake up the people in charge. The PGA Centenary Course, as Nicklaus’s creation is now known, isn’t even the best course at Gleneagles.
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2. There’s been lots of angry speculation about the reasons for this year’s American defeat, but no one, so far as I know, has hit on the real explanation: the extraordinarily annoying pre-shot routines of Jim Furyk and Keegan Bradley. In TV broadcasts of regular tour events, producers have become adept at keeping the cameras away from those two until they’re almost ready to make a real stroke. During the Ryder Cup, though, so little actual golf is under way at any moment that they had no choice but to make us watch full sequences—all the tics and twirls and feints and bird peeks and pocket scrunches and everything else. True, we were spared Furyk’s 5-Hour Energy wardrobe, and thank goodness for that. But the other stuff was increasingly infuriating, and by Saturday afternoon (I’m guessing) so many U.S. TV watchers were mentally rooting against Furyk and Bradley that the cosmic tide irretrievably turned. Those two golfers, between them, won two points and lost four; turn those Ls to Ws, and it’s a blowout the other way.
Now, back to the other Ryder Cup. The two shots you haven’t seen were both hit by Doug, who was my partner. In each case, he went on to triple- or even quadruple-bogey the hole. But that was OK because I had him covered.

Reader’s Trip Report: Askernish Golf Club, South Uist, Scotland

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Askernish is on the island of South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, off the coast of northwestern Scotland. 

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I first visited in 2007, on assignment for Golf Digest, and I went back late the following year on assignment for The New Yorker. Getting to South Uist requires determination. In 2007, I flew from Inverness to Benbecula, which is one island to the north and is connected to South Uist by a half-mile-long causeway: 

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In the air, I looked down, through breaks in the clouds, on the fjord-like creases that rumple Scotland’s west coast and on the waters of the Minch, the stormy channel that separates the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland. The only other passengers were the day’s newspapers and two guys accompanying a load of cash for ATMs in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, where we stopped first. Here are the newspapers, in containers belted into the seats:

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In 2008, I took a ferry from Oban, which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Glasgow. The ferry sails three or four times a week and makes a brief stop at Barra, another island. I actually could have flown to Barra, although the flight schedule depends on the tides, because Barra’s runway is a beach:

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The South Uist ferry trip takes about six and a half hours in good weather. We passed the islands of Mull, Coll, Muck, Eigg, Rum, Sanday, Sundray, Vatersay, Hellisay, Gighay, and Stack, among others. We also passed this lighthouse, on a tiny island called Eilean Musdile. It’s just off the shore of a larger island, called Lismore, which has a population of 146. The lighthouse was built in 1833:

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Until 1974, cars on the South Uist ferry had to be loaded and unloaded with a crane, like freight; nowadays, you drive on and drive off. The ferry docks in Lochboisdale, a few miles from Askernish:

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The original course at Askernish was laid out in 1891 by Old Tom Morris. At some point, probably during the Second World War, most of Morris’s holes were abandoned, and until roughly a decade ago they were essentially forgotten. Since then, a plausible version of the old course has been restored, by a group that included Gordon Irvine, a Scottish golf-course consultant; Martin Ebert, an English golf architect and links-course specialist; Mike Keiser, the founder of Bandon Dunes; and Ralph Thompson, who used to be the manager of the island’s main agricultural supply store and now works full-time as the golf club’s chairman and principal promoter. Here are Irvine and Ebert, discussing the routing in 2008:

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My New Yorker article about Askernish caught the attention David Currie, a reader and retired investment banker who lives on a small farm outside Toronto. (He’s front-row-center in the photo below.)  He first visited Askernish in 2010, and has since joined the club and returned two more times—most recently in June, for the first annual gathering of its “life members.” (I’m one, too, but couldn’t make it.)

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Currie also sent two photos of the course. Here’s the eighth hole:

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And here’s the sixteenth, Old Tom’s Pulpit, which is one of my favorite holes anywhere:]

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Currie writes:

I had always known that my roots were in the west coast of Scotland. Although my paternal grandparents came from the Glasgow area, I was aware that the Currie DNA was scattered along the coastal shores north of Glasgow. (Apparently, my ancestors slept around.) Other than that, I had little family history to go by. In 2011, Ralph Thompson mentioned that a Robert Currie had traveled to South Uist from New York to meet with the local council about erecting a memorial cairn acknowledging the contribution of Clan Currie to the cultural development of the island. I was present at the dedication of the cairn, in 2012:

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MacMhuirich was our original name centuries ago. And here’s a shot of my opportunistic wife, Liz, who never could resist a handsome man with his own whiskey bottle. Actually, the handsome man is Alasdair Macdonald, the owner of the croft where the cairn was erected:

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The Life Members Challenge was a Stableford. Currie came in second, one point behind Eric Iverson, an associate of the architect Tom Doak (who also played).

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Currie continues:
The initial six holes at Askernish can cause one to question what the fuss is all about. They are certainly quite nice, but nothing unusual or special. However, the WOW factor kicks in as you climb the dunes from sixth green to seventh tee and you stand there gazing out over the Atlantic Ocean. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, but I wasn’t about to allow that to happen, at least until I finished my round!

If you visit South Uist, drive carefully. Most of the roads are single-lane, and you have to share them.

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Great Golf Courses: Machrihanish and Machrihanish Dunes

Machrihanish Golf Club, near Campbeltown, Scotland, May, 2014.

Machrihanish Golf Club, near Campbeltown, Scotland, May, 2014.

Machair is a Gaelic word that means pretty much the same thing as links, the sandy, wind-shaped coastal grasslands where the game of golf arose. It’s pronounced “mocker,” more or less, but with the two central consonants represented by what sounds like a clearing of the throat. The word is still used in parts of Scotland—for example, on the island of South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides. The photo below, of me and my golf clubs, was taken on the machair at Askernish, the ghost course, on South Uist, in December 2008:

owenaskernish2008The word machair is also preserved in a number of places in Ireland and Scotland: Magheramore, Maghera Strand, Machair Bay, Macharioch, and Machrihanish. Those last two are villages on the Kintyre Peninsula, in southwestern Scotland. The southernmost tip of the peninsula, called the Mull of Kintyre, was celebrated in 1977 in a song by Paul McCartney, who owns a house nearby. A few miles north of the Mull is Machrihanish Golf Club, which was founded in 1876, with twelve holes, and was enlarged three years later by Old Tom Morris. Here’s the view from the first tee at Machrihanish — one of the coolest opening shots in golf (the beach is very definitely in play):

machrihanishfirstteeAnd right next to Machrihanish is a second course, Machrihanish Dunes, which was designed by David McLay Kidd, the architect of Bandon Dunes. It opened in 2009. It has my favorite kind of clubhouse:

dunesclubhouseMachrihanish was the setting of Michael Bamberger’s book To the Linkslandwhich was published in 1992. One of the most and least appealing features of Machrihanish is that it isn’t easy to get to. If you’re traveling by car, the round trip from Glasgow can be more than seven hours, without much in the way of golf along the route. Flying is possible, although scheduling can be problematic, especially if you’re trying to connect from an international flight. The workaround my friends and I used during a recent buddies trip—with help and planning from Celtic Golf—was to go by water, on a chartered boat, which was operated by Kintyre Express. We made the trip, from Troon, in less than an hour and a half. The boat ride turned out to be one of the week’s many highlights:

tonyrichardboatWe passed this lighthouse on the way:

lighthousefromboatAnd this is what we saw as we entered the harbor at Campbeltown, the town closest to Machrihanish:

campbeltownviewOur hotel was right on the harbor, a short walk from where the boat tied up:

royalhotelAnd both courses were just a short drive (by van) from the hotel. This is Peter A., putting from a fairway at Machrihanish:

peterfairwayputtThe two guys in the photo below, who were out for a walk with their wives in Campbeltown, chatted with us about golf, and then came back without their wives to tell us a story about Tony Lema. I think they were interested in us partly because I had played two Scottish courses they hadn’t believed any American golfer would even have heard of: Reay and Strathpeffer.

twoscottishguysThe photo below is a view of the water from Machrihanish Dunes. The course was built, with numerous conservation restrictions, on what the British call a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The maintenance crew doesn’t use fertilizer, and there’s no irrigation system. Only a tiny fraction of the land was disturbed during construction. And the course is terrific.
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The photo below is of a former R.A.F. base, which borders both courses. A U.S. Navy SEAL commando unit used to be stationed there. Part of the facility still functions as Campbeltown’s airport. The runway is so long that even I could land an airplane on it, probably.

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After three days at Machrihanish, we got back on our boat and headed to our next destination: Northern Ireland, which is actually closer to Campbeltown than Troon is. Here’s the skipper, loading our golf bags in Campbeltown harbor:

That's Robert G. holding my awesome Sun Mountain Atlas golf-bag travel cover, which I bought years ago, after Northwest Airlines snapped the head off my driver during a trip to Bandon Dunes. It has traveled all over the world with me. I'm sorry to say that Sun Mountain doesn't make it anymore.

That’s Robert G., on the left, holding my awesome Sun Mountain Atlas golf-bag travel cover, which I bought about ten years ago, after Northwest Airlines snapped the head off my driver during a trip to Bandon Dunes. My friends call it R2D2. It has traveled all over the world with me. I’m sorry to report that Sun Mountain doesn’t make it anymore.

On the way to Northern Ireland, we passed the Mull of Kintyre, an area of weird currents and whirlpools, a place where a guy had recently drowned, a goat (basking on some rocks) that was descended from goats that were brought to Ireland by the Spanish Armada, and what used to be the cottage of Gugliemo Marconi—whose name was not derived from machair, and who may or may not have been a golfer, but who was one of the inventors of radio. In fact, he made his first long-distance transmission was from the cottage, which is right on the water, to an island a few miles away. Here’s the cottage as it looks today:

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The weather was perfect during our trip. The skipper took us close to both coasts, so that we could get a better view.

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Here we are landing in Ballycastle, where the first thing we did was go to a grocery store and buy about a thousand dollars worth of junk food. Then back to golf.

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Reader’s Trip Report: Pinehurst, North Carolina

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This year’s U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open will be held at Pinehurst during consecutive weeks, beginning on June 12 (for the men) and June 19 (for the women). The U.S.G.A. has never tried that before, although my club has done it successfully with the men’s and women’s member-guests. Adam Sachs, a reader in Kansas City, recently traveled to Pinehurst with three friends to check things out.

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Sachs is the guy in the middle in the photo above. The guy on the left is Steve Swartzman, and the guy on the right is Chip Fleischer, whose fiftieth birthday was their excuse for taking the trip. They all went to high school together. We haven’t met Glenn Jordan, the fourth member of the group, yet, but you get the idea.

Pinehurst flag

From Sachs’s report:
Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore happily brought Pinehurst No. 2 back to its sandy Donald Ross roots in 2011. As for its altogether vexing, convex-shaped greens, our caddies Eddie Mac and Jamie liked to say, “Mr. Ross likes you to visit, but he doesn’t want you to stay too long.” The restored waste areas now define the course as much as the greens. We had top-notch caddies, a sun-drenched afternoon, and nary a gust of wind, so scoring conditions were ripe. I’d like to tell you we all managed to stay in the nineties. But I can’t.

No 2

Pinehurst No. 2 is definitely bucket-list material, but from now on my destination courses in the area will be Pine Needles and Mid Pines, just five miles down the road. Pine Needles has hosted three U.S. Women’s Opens in the past twenty years, yet the clubhouse personnel were low-key and friendly; the practice area was conveniently close to the first tee; and the golf course was full of rolling hills and (of course) pine needles. Our hands-down favorite course of the trip was Mid Pines: 

mid pines

I myself haven’t been to Pinehurst in about ten years, and I want to go back. And here, finally, in the photo below, is Jordan, the fourth man. He’s standing with Swartzman, even though the guy he went to college with is Fleischer. Jordan is a sportswriter for the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald.

chip (1)

Sachs also forwarded me an email from Swartzman, whose post-trip reflections support my theory that men get to know each other mainly through parallel play:
As I told Adam in the car (to Adam’s relief, driven by someone other than me) on the way home, I’m not sure what I’ll say when Evelina asks me what we talked about all weekend.  She’ll want to know what everyone’s doing and how old their kids are, and she’ll ask about everyone’s health, summer plans, sex lives, etc. Of course, we didn’t talk about any of that. Should I tell her about Chip and Adam almost choking at the thought that a waitress had farted after delivering our food (when in fact it was me)? Or about how serious everyone was about taking home a large glass boot? The great thing about gatherings like this is how little we talk about our lives, our cares and concerns, or the future.
I couldn’t agree more. They’ll be plenty of time for all that other crap in the grave. Meanwhile, check out these urinals:

urinals midpines